After 25 plus years, the Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Studios Florida continues to reimagine the event experience by creating new, immersive themes that thread through every element — from the parade floats and entertainment to the merchandise and of course, the food and drink offerings. This year is no exception with inspiration coming from around the world (and even beyond).
I consider myself lucky to have experienced the Universal Orlando Resort food game mature over the years and it’s becoming another favorite reason to visit the parks.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to sample this year’s Mardi Gras food offerings and talk to the creative geniuses behind them, and cannot wait for you to try them for yourself. With 15 food kiosks, two bar carts, and eight regions represented, there is something to satisfy the foodie in all of us.
I’ll share some new dishes, returning faves and other tips, so grab your food passport and join me on this Mardi Gras culinary adventure.
Chicken Coxinha (pronounced ko-sheen-yuh)
This popular street food from Brazil is returning from last year. It’s a crispy, teardrop-shaped fritter filled with shredded chicken. These bite-sized goodies come in a paper cone making it easy for on-the-go snacking.
Foodie Tip: My Brazilian friend said there are two ways to enjoy your coxinha: either by biting the crunchy tip first (the way she does it) or by holding the tip and starting from the bottom. There’s really no right way to do it, although different regions of the country will strongly argue that their way is the best.
The beef rissole is a slight variation from the chicken ones. These savory bites are filled with tender, ground beef and coated in a croquet batter. I really enjoyed these and would recommend trying both the chicken coxinhas and beef rissoles.
Romeo and Juliet Coxinha
I admit that I have a soft spot for love stories, but my heart also skips a beat over fried dough desserts. These light, airy, and aptly-named coxinhas offer me both with their warm guava and cream cheese filling, rolled in a granulated sugar coating for a touch of added sweetness. Perfect for sharing (or not).
Coxinha Allergen info: Safe for Peanut, Tree Nut, Fish, Shellfish, and Sesame allergies
INDIA (FLORAL PLANET)
Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Vindaloo
Vindaloo — what a fun word to say! When both Chefs Christian Markussen and Chris Colón raved about this dish, I couldn’t wait to try it. Inspired by the Goa region of India, this spicy vegan dish features Romanesco cauliflower, sweet potatoes, peppers, sliced red onions, red and yellow tomatoes over a bed of basmati rice adorned with micro marigolds and a slice of grilled naan bread.
This dish made me a believer in vegan cuisine. First, it was gorgeous! Second, it was heartier than expected with a spicy and savory profile that wasn’t overpowering. And the marigolds brought a freshness that was plain fun to try.
Foodie Tip: You can find this dish in the Animal Actors Courtyard, where all items are plant-based.
Vegan Golden Chai White Chocolate Blondies
Blondies have more fun! This vegan dessert is a lighter version of the traditional golden brownie treat with applesauce instead of eggs, vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips, and an overall brightness from cardamom spice and chai tea topped with white icing and festive sugar leaves.
SOUTHEAST ASIA (VOLCANO PLANET)
Coconut Curry Shrimp Laksa
Chef Christian Markussen recently returned to the States after helping Universal Beijing Resort open its doors in the fall of 2021. That experience opened his palette to new ingredients and dishes which served as the inspiration for the Coconut Curry Shrimp Laksa.
This coconut curry dish is exploding with flavor and texture — sautéed shrimp, pulled chicken, cucumber, and ramen noodles served in a spicy coconut curry broth. Topped with sambal chili paste, bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, a sliced hard-boiled egg, and a piece of fried tofu battered in rice flour.
One word: delectable. The chefs knocked this one out of the theme park. Every bite brought different flavors to the forefront with the spicy broth simmering in the background. The fried tofu and cucumber also help keep the heat from taking over, but if you do like it hot, just dip each bite into the chili paste first.
Foodie Tip: This dish is served with a Chork: a chopstick fork. It’s a three-way utensil that can be used as a fork, chopsticks in training, or break them apart and use as traditional chopsticks. Let us know your preferred Chork use in the comments below.
NEW ORLEANS (PLANET MARDI GRAS)
Nothing says Mardi Gras like the New Orleans classics that return year after year.
Believe it or not, I had never tried this before… Mostly because I am not used to my food looking at me (ha!). After I told “Mr. Fred”, the crawfish, thank you for the nutrients, I dug in twisting apart the bright red shellfish and savoring the Cajun flavor. It took a little work, but well worth it. This classic dish of crawfish, andouille sausage, red potatoes, and corn cooked in a Cajun-spiced broth was a true comfort meal and one of my must-haves during Mardi Gras.
Other returning favorites include Chicken & Andouille Sausage Jambalaya, Blackened Shrimp Po’ Boy, Shrimp Gumbo, Crab Etouffee, and Muffuletta.
Yes, they are back and always a good decision. Light, airy, fried dough pockets covered with a healthy dose of powdered sugar. What’s not to love?
Bloody Mary (Premium)
While you can find a standard Bloody Mary at the event as well, you have to try the Premium version. It is so much more than a drink. It’s like having a charcuterie board in a glass. The iced blend of tomato juice, vodka, and Worcestershire sauce is garnished with a plethora of accouterments including a grilled chicken wing seasoned with a housemade hot wing sauce, hush puppy, pickled green bean straws, jerky meat straw, poached shrimp, celery, olive, and sweet Italian chili pepper.
Foodie Tip: Each food tent has a unique alcoholic beverage pairing. Keep an eye on our blog for an upcoming Bar Crawl Through Mardi Gras guide.
Mardi Gras Marshmallow Pie
This exquisite chocolate marshmallow dream of a dessert will make you forget everything you remember about grocery store marshmallow pies. Pastry Chef Cheryl Figueroa Rivera uses her culinary magic to create these chocolate-dipped delights with homemade graham cracker crusts and marshmallow filling. Then she dusts the chocolate shell with edible gold and sugar Mardi Gras crowns and sprinkles. It’s love at first bite.
Allergen info: Safe for Peanut, Tree Nut, Fish, Shellfish, and Sesame Allergies
More Bites For Less
This blog is just a sampling of the Top Foods at Mardi Gras, but there are so many other delicious menu items. To get more items for less, check out the Mardi Gras Food & Beverage Card. There are two options based on different spending amounts. They can be purchased in person at the food kiosks in Universal Studios Florida.
Premier and Preferred Passholders standard food discounts apply.
Mardi Gras Dining Beyond the Park
Your foodie travels don’t have to end at the theme parks. Keep the party going by checking out the new and exciting Mardi Gras-themed food and beverage options that the chefs come up with every year at a number of venues in Universal CityWalk, including Voodoo Doughnut, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, and Pat O’Brien’s, the Bourbon Street bayou bar that celebrates Mardi Gras year-round.
Or better yet, stay at one of the eight Universal Orlando Hotels. With exclusive theme park benefits, free and easy transportation, and even more Cajun-inspired food to try, it’s the best way to immerse yourself in the Mardi Gras celebration. You can also hop around the hotels to try the different Mardi Gras-themed dishes. Some of my favorites were:
- The New Orleans BBQ Shrimp & Dirty Rice from the Beach Break Cafe at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort — Surfside Inn and Suites and from Pier 8 Market at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort — Dockside Inn and Suites is a classic Mardi Gras dish that takes you all the way to the bayou.
- The Abita Amber Ale Shrimp from the Velvet Bar at Hard Rock Hotel. It’s Gulf shrimp, lightly sautéed in creole garlic butter and Abita Amber Ale and is an exceptional mix of flavors.
- The Andouille Sausage and Pulled Chicken Empanada at Amatista Cookhouse in Loews Sapphire Falls Resort offers a fun Mardi Gras spin on this resort’s perfected empanada.
Now, if you want to really go big, order the Shrimp Po’ Boy from Galaxy Bowl Restaurant at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Nothing says New Orleans quite like a Po’ Boy and this one comes with a side of New Orleans Kettle Style chips, a 16 oz. Abita draft beer and a King Cake.
For more information on Mardi Gras offerings at the Universal theme parks and hotels visit UniversalOrlando.com/MardiGras.
Must be 21 years and older with valid identification to purchase or drink alcoholic beverages.
Mardi Gras is happening February 5 through April 24. That’s more than 70 days to celebrate the flavors of New Orleans and from around the world. Share your favorites in the comments below.